Politics & Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”
Each week IPA Deputy Director of Public Policy Howie Beigelman takes a look at the weekly parsha and discusses it in a way you may never have seen. Any hashkafic, halachic or political opinions are personal and do not reflect the official psak or policy of the OU.
Korach 5771: Permission Granted
Rebellion! The People of Israel, having come through the fire of Egyptian bondage and the crucible of the sea have just been dealt the punishing blow of a forty year exile and denied entry to the Holy Land. Without possibility of parole, they are ripe for the usurper.
Korach plays his part, and he plays the people, too well. He stokes their fears, inflames their insecurities and rubs raw their feelings of being cheated. In a Lord of the Flies like battle for the conch, Korach challenges the long suffering servants of G-d – and His people – for leadership.
Korach’s challenge echoes, in some perverse way, the American Declaration of Independence and the political theory of John Locke. Namely, that government gains its legitimate authority from the consent of the governed.
But what Korach would quickly learn is that an immoral and unjust government, even if it begins with – and maintains – a veneer of public approval, such a government loses its Divine imprimatur. And then, as most despots have learned over history – whether behind palaces of stone or curtains of iron – they will not be able to maintain their power. They might maintain it for years or decades, even bequeathing rule to their children, but eventually it’s over. We can’t say how ends the Arab Spring, but if it is ended with democracies and the rule of law, as Eastern Europe is now, it will be another proof to this.
That is why both the American & Israeli Declarations of Independence reference the Almighty. (Israel’s, in characteristic deference to its Talmudic roots, wasn’t a given. In the end, as a compromise, it references Tzur Yisrael, the Rock of Israel, rather than explicitly mentioning G-d.) Korach had the idea of a constitutional monarchy down pretty much – a monarch limited in their powers. But he didn’t realize that there is some concept of a Divine Right of Kings.
Our elected officials, those they appoint to serve and even those who are civil servants, as well as, at least in a democracy, those who serve in the military, must keep in mind the people they serve. But they also must remember they must act in a way that allows them to continue to serve. G-d (or for those who aren’t religious, morality) must always overlay our actions.
And that similarly goes for our own private lives. Parents, teachers, preachers, and employers serve to some extent, at the consent of the governed. But they also must make sure they act in a way that allows them permission to rule.
Words to consider, ideas to ponder — politics & the parsha.